“A vintage Mercedes sedan, cruising the center lane of the modern-jazz interstate.” That’s how New York Times critic Nate Chinen recently described trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s hard-hitting quintet, which is as state-of-the-art as they come in applying contemporary polish to the classic hard bop sound of the 1960s.
Of all the jazz musicians to emerge from Young Lion U. in the early 1990s, none has sustained a big-time career more impressively than Hargrove. The Dallas native, now 40 – can it be? – could have coasted on his laurels. But he has refused to sit still artistically, exposing himself to new influences and performing in new settings. With his band Crisol, he partook of Afro-Cuban music. Hi RH Factor dabbled in funk and hip-hop, engaging such standout guest vocalists as Erykah Badu, Common and D’Angelo. Then there was the Directions in Music album and tour with Herbie Hancock and the late Michael Brecker, and his Emergence big band. In small doses, on tunes like “September in the Rain,” Hargrove sings.
Ultimately, however, as demonstrated on his acclaimed 2008 quintet album, Ear Food, it is in the fast lane of bop that Hargrove maneuvers most impressively – on smartly chosen classics and originals, on burners and ballads. Boasting a sound that is more bracing now than ever, he’ll be in the driver’s seat tonight with alto saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Ameen Saleem and drummer Montez Coleman. Thus will the festival climax this year: full speed ahead.
NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D7000, f/3.5 @ 200 mm, 1/320, ISO 1000, No Flash